Released last year to critical praise and public indifference, “Seven Psychopaths” is a film that deserved a much better reception than it received. Apparently, having a stellar cast, which includes such heavy weights as Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell and Sam Rockwell isn’t enough to get interest built up in a project anymore, because if it was then this would have been a bonafide hit.
Instead, it flew so far under the radar that on opening weekend they tried to buy your ticket for you , but that still didn’t work. So what was it then? What was it that kept everyone out of the theater? To be honest, despite the great cast and a seemingly male oriented Quentin Tarantino-esque plot, this is just one of those movies that is a little too odd for your average movie goer and near impossible film to market to general audiences. The term niche has never been more apt than how it applies to this particular film.
It is almost equally impossible to put into words as well. The film, in the simplest terms, is a farce. Filled with numerous larger than life characters, ludicrous situations and a certain level of self awareness that straddles the line between parody and deadly earnest. Even the title, “Seven Psychopaths” is made to play on our expectations and twist them apart. You see seven actors lined up on the poster with that title above their heads, you automatically think you know what to expect from it, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. The more you think you have a handle on things, the more the movie messes with your mind.
So, what is this thing actually about then? Well, to start off there are seven psychopaths of varying types. A mob boss, a vengeful Vietnamese soldier, a masked killer of killers, a loving couple who kill other psychopaths and…, you get the point, so let’s leave the others a mystery for now. You have a Hollywood screenwriter (Colin Farrell), who is writing a screenplay for his latest film entitled…wait for it…”Seven Psychopaths”!
His closest friend is a dognapper (Sam Rockwell), who with his partner (Christopher Walken) stalk the local parks for dogs, steal them and then later return them for the reward. Then you have this crazed gangster guy (Woody Harrelson) who recently lost his dog at the hands of the dognappers and goes on a rampage looking for him, interrogating, torturing and killing anyone he needs to in order to find his dog.
Then, in ture Tarantino style, we discover through a series of events that they are all connected in other ways, that their paths were preordained to eventually cross. This is when we, the audience, learn that it isn’t just a coincidence that we are watching a film by the same name as the one being written by Farrell’s character. Because he is in fact dictating what is happening on screen from moment to moment, but completely oblivious to it. It is as if the writer of the film was actually in the film he was writing, a character in his own story about a man who writes a story he is actually living. This odd revelation leads to a slew of off the wall sequences that really shouldn’t work, but strangely do in their own bizarre way.
“Seven Psychopaths” isn’t a film meant for everyone, hence its deplorable box office performance. Likely anyone that saw it was confounded, never truly knowing whether what they are watching is actually happening or just part of the in-movie screenplay being written concurrently with the events as they unfolded. For how convoluted the entire affair is though, it does find its voice by the end and is able to make sense and embrace all the weirdness in a surprisingly sentimental way that doesn’t feel forced at all..
While it is easy for someone like myself to navigate the film’s many oddities, it is difficult to say how others will react to it. But one thing is for sure, there isn’t really anything else like it out there and that alone should at least warrant some curiosity, which is why this one gets a solid recommendation across the board.